After Canada, I took some time to recover and recharge my mental batteries. The time and effort I put in to preparing for IM Canada totally drained me – especially when I didn’t perform as well as I was capable of on race day. I was fortunate enough to be able to enter IM Florida and have one more chance at IM this season.
Note: This post was written in November, 2007, my last season racing as a professional.
My plan before Florida was to do shorter, faster stuff – get really good at holding higher watts for sustained periods on the bike, and get very comfortable running between 6:50 and 7:00. I had two reasons for doing this:
- I didn’t have the mental strength/desire to do the long workouts like I did before Canada
- If I got good at holding speed/power above IM pace, IM pace would feel easy.
I was showing personal bests in workouts across the board. My swim came around and I did a 4100-yard broken TT in 58 minutes. I was holding 310+ watts for over 2 1/2 hours during broken TT sets (275 watts for total ride), and I was holding 6:30-6:40’s for my medium-long runs. None of it felt hard – it just felt good. Now, none of these workouts made me think that I would go :55 in the swim or be able to hold 300 watts on the bike or even run 6:40 in the marathon – from experience, I knew better, I needed to drop it down a couple of notches for IM. The encouraging thing was that the paces I was capable of comfortably holding were A LOT harder than my planned IM pace. This is good news for the future. I learned a lot about how I respond to certain workouts, and I will use many of these workouts in the future. On a side note- it wasn’t easy to get my body to do this, but it gave me insight into what my strengths are (more on that later … maybe…)
Race week can be stressful. My goal was to have fun at this race. I knew it would probably be my last IM for a while (forever?), so I wanted to go out on a good note. Often, I second guess my training and taper and end up doubting myself as I approach race day. This time, I stayed positive, believed in my training, and didn’t stress about the race. I constructed a totally different kind of taper – some based on experience (how I respond to resting/how I respond to certain workouts), some based on science (gene expression/training and detraining effects), some based on intuition (I have practically earned a PhD in Ironman training, so I need to believe in my feelings). It worked well, and I will continue to use this new format in the future.
Shortly after IM Canada, and once I signed up for IMFL, I asked my buddy Joe Chambers to go with me and serve as my “support guy.” He did the race last year so he knew the course, and he is very knowledgeable about IM, plus his is one of my best friends. What I didn’t tell Joe when I was trying to convince him to go to FL with me, was that I felt that I may not get through the race if I didn’t have a support person with me. I was mentally shelled after Canada. Fortunately, Joe agreed quickly and got a ticket to Panama City Beach. Strangely, after I knew he was going with me, I started to train better and get more excited about racing IMFL.
We left for Panama City Beach Thursday afternoon (the race was Saturday). As a result of leaving so late, I missed the pro meeting and registration (both were Thursday). I really didn’t mind missing the pro meeting because all of these high-strung, fit guys and gals get stuck in a small room and are told about race rules etc. I always leave those meetings feeling anxious and more nervous than I did before the meeting. I sort of regretted missing registration though. Normally there are LONG lines, full of people waiting to pick up their race packet – the cool thing was that I could skip the line and go straight to the pro registration (no line) and get my stuff. I know that sounds sort of snobby, but it really felt kind of cool. Honestly though, as cool as it was, I won’t miss it…
Fortunately, all of my bags arrived in Panama City. During the flight, Joe asked me what I would do if my bike didn’t make it. I decided that I wouldn’t worry about that until I had to (fortunately, I didn’t have to). We were picked up by my good buddy Joe Dervin (left in picture). This was his 16th IM and 6th or 7th time doing IMFL. He took us to our hotel. It was located on the beach (literally), so we had the ocean on one side of us, and the run course (mile 1,12,14, and 25) on the other side of us. The nice thing about doing a race for the 4th time is that things are familiar. I had stayed here 3 other times, so I didn’t have to get used to a new place, a new environment; it kind of felt like another home.
Joe and I stayed with my other buddy John (middle in picture). John was signed up for IMFL (his 6th or 7th time), but he had a bike accident the same day I did IM Canada and couldn’t compete. He came down anyway to volunteer and watch Joe Dervin and me compete. I got my bike put together and was in bed by 11pm.
Friday (the day before the race) was really relaxed. I got up around 7 am, looked at my watch and thought, “tomorrow at this time, you’ll be 10 minutes into the swim.” Rather than dwell on that thought, I sat up in bed, and looked out of the huge picture window and saw the sun starting to light up the ocean. It all looked so peaceful. The picture below is taken from the balcony of our room. The swim course isn’t visible in the picture, but is actually on the far right side of the picture. Joe, John and I walked about 1 mile down the beach to the swim start. There were probably about 500 athletes there in their wetsuits testing out the waters. I swam about 15 minutes – just long enough to “make peace” with the ocean. Too many times, I have done open water swims without “making peace” and had a rough start. While swimming, I saw a few jellyfish, but none bothered me. They just kind of floated there, glowing in the morning sun. A couple of years ago, there were so many jellyfish that people couldn’t swim the days leading up to the race. This year wasn’t too bad.
After the swim, Joe, John and I ate some pancakes at the race expo then headed over to register. We went back to the hotel and I got my bike and transition bags ready. I took the bike for a quick spin to make sure nothing was going to fall off of it and then rode down to the transition area to check in my bike and transition bags. After that, I literally laid around the rest of the day watching TV and eating. It was kind of tough staying inside all day because it was so beautiful outside. Joe and John laid on the beach and swam in the ocean. I watched The Godfather.
Joe Dervin and his wife Patty came over for dinner. John warmed up a mean spaghetti sauce and angel hair pasta. We watched a movie and went to bed. I got to sleep around 9pm and slept pretty good. My alarm went off at 3:30. Showtime…